2017-06-20 / Front Page

Selecting the ideal fresh summer produce

One of the best things about summer is the fresh vegetables that you can purchase at roadside stands, at farmers’ market, or grow at home. However, you want to make sure that when you obtain your fresh vegetables, you are harvesting them at the right time and taking the proper steps to wash the produce. From mid-June through August, we would anticipate some of the fresh vegetables available in Indiana to include cucumbers, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, and squash.

Cucumbers can be tricky. If you are looking at a slicing cucumber (with seeds), you would want it to be a medium to dark green, with a maximum diameter of two and a half inches; but minimum length of six inches. In comparison, a pickling or dill cucumber should be firm, crisp, a medium green to dark green color with a maximum diameter of an inch and a quarter and maximum length of four inches. Therefore, when selecting cucumbers, make sure you know how you anticipate utilizing the cucumber before making your selection.

Green beans are considered ripe for harvest when they are brittle, firm, and free of strings. The pods inside will be a quarter to a third of an inch in diameter and the green bean itself will be four and a half to eight inches in length.

Peppers are another vegetable that can be tricky to deal with. The size of the pepper you select is determined by the type of pepper you are wanting. If you want a bell pepper, it should be between three and five inches in diameter and three and a half to five inches in length. In comparison, a jalapeno pepper will only be an inch to an inch and a half in diameter and two and a half to three and a half inches in length. All peppers, regardless of type, should be firm to the touch.

The type of the tomato dictates the size, color, and shape that the fruit should be when harvested. Regardless of type, you would want to select tomatoes that are free of cracks, uniform in color, firm, and smooth. However, most heirloom varieties will have cracks.

The kernels of mature sweet corn should be plump and milky. To see if the sweet corn is at the right maturity, try busting a kernel with your fingernail. If it breaks and a milky substance comes out, it is ready for harvest. Ideally, sweet corn will be at maturity when the cob is about six inches in length.

Zucchini squash and summer squash should be an inch and a half to two inches in diameter and anywhere from five to eight inches in length. Their skin should be very tender and be an intense green, white, or yellow depending on the variety.

Regardless of what type of produce you purchase, it is always important to take proper steps when washing/ preparing it for consumption.

When it comes to washing your produce, do so under running tap water. Cucumbers, squash, and potatoes should be scrubbed with a brush. It is also best to remove the outer layer of leafy vegetables before rinsing them with water. Leafy vegetables should be dried thoroughly before placed in a refrigerator, if being consumed later. Lastly, all utensils and cutting boards should be washed with hot, soapy water after you cut any produce.

Visit our homepage at www.extension.purdue.edu/putnam or you can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 765.653.8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee. Purdue University is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. All times listed are Eastern Time.

Upcoming Events:

June 20 – Floriculture 4-H Workshop, Extension Office, 6:30 p.m.

June 22 – Indiana Grown webinar, 12 p.m., Register at https://ag.purdue.edu/Extension/wia/Pages/webinars.aspx

June 22 - Fine Arts 4-H Workshop, York Automotive Building, Fairgrounds, 9 a.m.

June 22- Health Leader Lesson “Identity Theft”, 11 a.m., Purdue Extension

June 22 - Public Speaking/ Demo 4-H Workshop, York Automotive Building, Fairgrounds, 10 a.m.

June 22 – Wood Science/ Craft 4-H Workshop, Steve Lien Shop, 6 p.m.

June 22 – Gardening 4-H Workshop, Extension Office, 6:30 p.m.

June 29 – Youth Pork Quality Assurance 4-H First Year, Fairgrounds, 6 p.m.

(by Jenna Nees Extension Educator, Ag & Natural Resources, Purdue Extension–Putnam County)

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